As Idahoans grapple with the fallout from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and many face an uncertain economic future, I want to assure the people of Idaho that the Department of Labor is here to assist our fellow citizens through these difficult times.
Because of the rapid onset of the pandemic and immediacy of its impact on our economy, states across the country had almost no time to ramp up services to meet the urgent demand. Here in Idaho, we have seen a 4,400 percent increase in the number of claims being filed from the week prior to March 8, when Gov. Brad Little declared a state of emergency. Calls coming into our office have exploded and the sheer volume of web and phone traffic has caused strains on our staff and technical challenges for our systems.
We are redirecting department resources and hiring new people, but it will take time – several weeks – to address the issues and answer every question.
By now, many of you have heard about the new federal unemployment relief efforts approved by Congress and signed into law by Pres. Donald Trump last week.
In time, the following programs will be available:
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – Assistance for individuals not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, particularly self-employed individuals.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – An additional $600 in each claimant’s weekly payment.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – An extension of benefits for claimants that exhaust their regular benefits.
These programs may take several weeks to implement in Idaho as we work with the U.S. Department of Labor to develop the details and make significant changes to our computer system to accommodate the new programs.
As these federal initiatives become available, we will continue to notify the public about any program changes via email, social media, messages on our website and regular updates to the online FAQs.
While we work as quickly as we can to meet the unprecedented demand for state and federal unemployment assistance programs, we urge Idahoans to go ahead and apply for benefits even if they are not sure if they qualify.
I want to offer some more information that might make the application process run more smoothly.
It is important that applicants know they do not have to call the Department of Labor to file a claim. Our website, labor.idaho.gov, contains a wealth of information on available programs and the ability to apply for those programs online. We encourage applicants to watch our instructional videos, read the frequently asked questions and follow the user guides in preparation for filing at labor.idaho.gov/ClaimantPortal.
Once an applicant has filed, we will reach out to the person, should there be any questions or problems with their claim.
The Idaho Department of Labor and its team of professionals stand ready to serve Idahoans through these most difficult times. While the demand for our services is currently outstripping our ability to respond as quickly as we would like, we are working as hard as we can to assist each and every Idahoan who needs our help. Rest assured, with your help and patience we will get every impacted Idahoan the critical assistance for which they qualify in the coming days, weeks and months.